Michael Boling – Justification


The issue of justification has had a lasting influence on the Christian understanding of the topic of salvation and its relationship to eternal security. Biblical scholars have developed numerous stances on this theological understanding often resulting in a situation which has left many believers pondering the precise application of justification in their Christian walk. Perhaps the best known debate over this topic was that between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church and encapsulated in Luther’s statement “this is the true meaning of Christianity, that we are justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law.” It was this understanding of justification which launched the Protestant Reformation and a return to the New Testament understanding of the relationship of faith and works.

The exegetical foundation reinstituted by Martin Luther guides most theologians today in their search for a more comprehensive understanding of this immeasurable theological issue. A proper understanding of the meaning, roots and application of justification by faith is obligatory in order to properly live out a vibrant and fruitful Christian life in equilibrium with the expectation of eternal security. Justification is the underpinning upon which the believer in Christ can have assurance in the forgiveness of sin and everlasting reception by a sovereign God.

Justification can be defined as “the judicial act of God by which, on account of Christ, to whom the sinner is united by faith, he declares that sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law, but to be restored.” Further exposition on the root meaning of this term can be determined through an understanding of the Greek word for justification used in the New Testament. The judicial and legal terminology that is appropriated to dikaiōma is evident from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Strong notes that dikaiōma “uniformly, or with only a single exception, signifies, not to make righteous, but to declare just, or free from guilt and exposure to punishment.” In a similar stratum of interpretation, theologian George Stevens denotes that “justification is certainly in Paul an actus forensis, a decree of exemption from penalty and of acceptance into God’s favor.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Justification”

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Glenn Peoples – Did Paul Have an Out of Body Experience?

Did Paul talk about leaving his body and going to the third heaven?

Although I’m familiar with the view that the Apostle Paul is relating an “out-of-body experience” at the outset of 2 Corinthians 12, I’m pretty sure that he is not. That’s partly because I don’t think that Scripture teaches that we are immaterial souls that can escape our bodies. But my doubt is also based on the fact that the evidence for this claim about out of body experiences in this passage is just not persuasive. Here I’ll explain why I say this.

In context, Paul is explaining that he will not boast or take glory in himself and his own achievements. He is not worthy of such boasting, according to him. In passing, he gives an example of someone’s whose encounter with God is worthy of boasting about. He says:

Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows — was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself

To continue reading Glenn Peoples’ article, click here.

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Thomas Schreiner – Who Were the Galatians?

If someone was to ask you who Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians to, how would you respond? If you’re like most people, you’d probably answer that it was written to the church at Galatia, and—technically—you’d be right.

But did you know that there’s actually quite a bit of discussion around whether Paul’s letter was written to those in northern or southern Galatia? Does knowing who Paul was writing to affect how we read it? Not necessarily, but it does change the way we look at the book of Galatians in regards to Acts.

To continue reading Thomas Schreiner’s article, click here.

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Thomas Schreiner – Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

Critics of the slogan “faith alone” often point out that Scripture only speaks once about whether we are justified by faith alone—and that text denies it: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, CSB).

What does James mean in saying we are justified by works?

I won’t defend the truth of justification by faith alone in detail, but it’s clearly taught, for example, in Romans 3:28: “A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Or, as Paul teaches in Romans 4:5, “God justifies the ungodly.” Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:1–8; Gal. 3:6–9).

Salvation, as Paul elsewhere demonstrates, is “by grace” and “through faith” (Eph. 2:8–9). Works are excluded as the basis of salvation—otherwise people could boast about what they have done. Salvation by grace through faith highlights the amazing and comforting truth that salvation is the Lord’s work, not ours.

But does Paul contradict James?

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Tim Bertolet – The Law: Basics on Paul and the Law

vge2JtbU_400x400 Throughout the history of the church countless gallons of ink have been spilt trying to expound on the issue of ‘the Law’ in Scripture. In general when theologians, especially in Reformed circles, speak of ‘the Law’ they are speaking of the commands of God that reveal His moral will and mandate obedience on all humanity. As a theological category (one that has much Biblical warrant) Law is contrasted with the Gospel. In short, the Law demands but the Gospel fulfills and promises. The Law brings requirements but the Gospel forgives & fulfills so that we can receive what we could not acquire. This general grid can be helpful in many ways yet it can miss some of the nuances of the Scriptural arguments especially about the shifting role of the Law with respect to redemptive history.

Recent trends in New Testament studies have spent even more countless gallons of ink exploring the concept of ‘the Law’ from every perceivable angle and nuance. Needless to say, an introductory post to go with our podcast can barely scratch the surface. What we shall do is outline a few basic theses about ‘the Law’ as the apostle Paul uses the concept.

With respect to hermeneutics, one of the challenges in approaching the concept of ‘the Law’ in Paul’s theology is that Paul does not always use the word ‘law’ (nomos in Greek) to mean exactly the same thing. One word can be used in differing contexts to highlight differing concepts. For example, sometimes he uses ‘law’ to speak of a principle. Other times he is speaking specifically of ‘the Old Covenant’ often with reference to its role in salvation history. Still other times he speaks of ‘law’ to refer to commands or even moral requirements. This difficulty warrants careful reflection whenever we see the word ‘law’ in the Pauline corpus.

Let’s outline a few organizing points for thinking about the Law from the Pauline epistles:

(1) The Law in and of itself is good and reveals the righteous and holy will of God. Here Paul is probably most explicit in Romans 7:12, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” 1 Timothy 1:8 tells us the Law is good. Of course, the Law is part of the Word of God and is therefore breathed out by God and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16). The Law speaks not only for the Old Testament saint but also for the believer today (1 Cor. 9:8-10).

(2) The Law demands things of the individual that because of their sin they cannot do. The problem then with the Law is not the Law itself but the fact that when it confronts the individual it stirs up sin rather than remedying it (Rom. 7:10-11; 8:3). The individual can never keep the Law of God nor does the Law provide the means for obedience, life, or righteousness (Rom. 3:19, 8:3; Gal. 2:16; 3:21). The Law clearly specifies what the transgression is and increases sin (Rom. 5:20). God’s intent was never for the Law or obedience to the Law to be the means by which the world was saved (Rom. 8:3).

(3) The morality revealed in the Law is not just for Israel but brings the whole world under judgment. The Law brings knowledge of sin (Rom 3:19). It does this by clearly identifying the will and commands of God. The Law makes sin to be trespasses because it lays down the line so that when one sins the Law has clearly delineated the nature of the transgression (Rom. 5:14, 20; 7:14). While the covenant of the Law was given through Moses to Israel (Rom. 3:2, 19a; 9:4), the Law brings the whole world to be held accountable to God (3:19b). Every person, whether they have heard the God’s Word or not, is a law breaker before God (Rom. 2:12-15). By virtue of even fallen consciouses and our creation in the image of God, even Gentiles who were not under the Old Covenant, have the works of the law on their hearts (Rom. 2:15).

(4) Salvation in both the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law) and the New Covenant has always been by the same principle: faith in Jesus Christ. No one has been or ever will be justified by works of the Law (Gal. 2:16; 3:6-9, 18; Rom. 4:1-3). One of the most pernicious errors of our day has been to speak of the Old Testament saint as achieving salvation on a different basis as if their inheritance came through the Law or through keeping the Law. Eternal spiritual life never comes through the Law nor was the Law designed to give this to the believer (Gal. 3:21). The Law lays out the standard, it tells us what is required of God, it tells us what would result if we could keep it (‘Do this and live’) but it can never give righteousness, or the power to actually save (Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3). In fact, since we could not keep it by its very design the Law was intended to drive us to Christ through faith, whether we were an Old Covenant or a New Covenant saint.

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Justin Taylor – The Loss of Historical Adam and the Death of Exegesis

Steven Wedgeworth, commenting on the revisionist work of Peter Enns and J. R. Daniel Kirk and the agnosticism of Tremper Longman on the historical Adam:

What we are seeing in theological circles is a new refusal to exegete at all. Instead of demonstrating the ways in which the rest of the Bible supports a figurative or mythical reading of Genesis, we are told that it doesn’t matter if even the Old and New Testament writers were mistaken. Dr. Kirk asks, “Is it possible to affirm the point Paul wishes to make—that God’s grace, righteousness, and life abound to the many because of Christ—without simultaneously affirming the assumptions with which he illustrated these things to be true?” His answer is typical of the new hermeneutical shift:

To accompany Paul on the task of telling the story of the beginning in light of Christ, while parting ways with his first-century understanding of science and history, is not to abandon the Christian faith in favor of science. Instead, it demands a fresh act of faith in which we continue to hold fast to the truth that has always defined Christianity: the crucified Messiah is the resurrected Lord over all. Belief in Christ’s resurrection was a stumbling block for the ancients, and it is a stumbling block for us moderns as well—and increasingly so as we learn more about our human story and the biological processes entailed in life on this Earth. We do not give up on the central article of Christian faith when we use it to tell a renewed story of where we came from. On the contrary, we thereby give it the honor which is its due.

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Jim Hamilton – Peter Enns on Paul, Adam, and Evolution

by Jim Hamilton

February 9, 2011 was a great day for the Hamiltons, as my sweet wife gave birth to our fourth child. Praise God.

Meanwhile, over on the left coast Peter Enns was giving a lecture at Westmont College, and in the lecture he refers to Westmont as a left-wing California-style evangelical school.

In preparation for a panel discussion on the historicity of Adam at SBTS this next Tuesday (November 8, 2011), I watched the lecture Enns gave.

It seems from this lecture that for Peter Enns the theory of evolution carries as much authority, if not more, than the Bible. If you doubt that, do watch the lecture.

In seeking to synthesize evolution with Christianity Enns is engaging in a syncretistic attempt to combine alternative religions.The fact that he wants a careful, deliberate, sophisticated synthesis does not change the syncretistic nature of this enterprise.

This is not new. It’s old and boring and full of fallacies.

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Dr. Albert Mohler – Of First Importance: The Cross and Resurrection at the Center

The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority.

The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

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Dr. Werner Gitt – Danger No 1: Denial of Central Biblical Teachings

1. The Bible as authoritative source of information: The entire Bible bears witness that we are dealing with a source of truth authored by God. The Old Testament (OT) prophets took this position (e.g., Isa. 1:10; Jer. 7:1; and Hos. 4:6) as well as the New Testament (NT) apostles (e.g., 2 Tim. 3:16; and 2 Pet. 1:21). H.W. Beck concludes from archaeological researches [B1, p. 39]: “The hypothesis of a long oral tradition and of a long evolution of literary developmental processes is really not probable.” The apostles not only knew the Scriptures exceedingly well, but the deeper meanings were also disclosed to them by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ revealed certain information to Paul, as a chosen instrument of God (Gal. 1:12), and Paul confessed unequivocally: “I believe everything that . . . is written” (Acts 24:14). Peter affirmed that he did not follow cleverly invented stories, but was an eyewitness (2 Pet. 1:16). The special key to understanding Scripture is given by God’s Son himself. Jesus states that His words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35). He guarantees that everything that has been written will be fulfilled (Luke 18:31). He authorized all the meaningful elements of the text of the Bible (e.g., Luke 16:17) and confirmed that all biblical accounts described real historical events, for example the creation of the first human couple (Matt. 19:4–5), the universality of the Flood and the destruction of all air-breathing creatures (Matt. 24:38–39), and the history of Jonah (Matt. 12:40–41). The present author discusses the authority of the Bible more fully in [G6].

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William Gurnall – The Christian in Complete Armour

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
— Ephesians 6:10-20.

The Introduction

Paul was now in bonds, yet not so close kept as to be denied pen and paper; God, it seems, gave him some favour in the sight of his enemies: Paul was Nero’s prisoner, but Nero was much more God’s. And while God had work for Paul, he found him friends both in court and prison. Let persecutors send saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their turn.

But how does this great apostle spend his time in prison? Not in publishing invectives against those, though the worst of men, who had laid him in; a piece of zeal which the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with: nor in politic counsels, how he might wind himself out of his trouble, by sordid flattery of, or sinful compliance with, the great ones of the times. Some would have used any picklock to have opened a passage to their liberty and not scrupled, so escape they might, whether they got out at the door or window. But this holy man was not so fond of liberty or life, as to purchase them at the least hazard to the gospel. He knew too much of another world, to bid so high for the enjoying of this; and therefore he is regardless what his enemies can do with him, well knowing he should go to heaven whether they would or no. No, the great care which lay upon him, was for the churches of Christ; as a faithful steward he labors to set the house of God in order before his departure. We read of no despatches sent to court to procure his liberty; but many to the churches, to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their spite against us, as by doing what good we can wherever we be come.

The devil had as good have let Paul alone, for he no sooner comes into prison but he falls a preaching, at which the gates of Satan’s prison fly open, and poor sinners come forth. Happy for Onesimus that Paul was sent to jail; God had an errand for Paul to do to him and others, which the devil never dreamed of. Nay he doth not only preach in prison, but that he may do the devil all the mischief he can, he sends his epistles to the churches, that tasting his spirit in his afflictions, and reading his faith, now ready to be offered up, they might much more be confirmed; amongst which Ephesus was not least in his thoughts, as you may perceive by his abode with them two years together, Acts 19:10; as also by his sending for the elders of this church as far as Miletus, in his last journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:17, to take his farewell of them as never to see their faces in this world more. And surely the sad impression which that heart-breaking departure left on the spirits of these elders, yea, the whole church, by them acquainted with this mournful news, might stir up Paul, now in prison, to write unto this church, that having so much of his spirit, yea, of the spirit of the gospel, left in their hands to converse with, they might more patiently take the news of his death.

In the former part of this epistle, he soars high in the mysteries of faith. In the latter, according to his usual method, he descends to application; where we find him contracting all those truths, as beams together, in a powerful exhortation, the more to enkindle their hearts, and powerfully persuade them to ‘walk worthy of their vocation,’ Eph. 4:1, which then is done, when the Christian’s life is so transparent that the grace of the gospel shines forth in the power of holiness on every side, and from all his relations, as a candle in a crystal glass, not in a dark lantern, lightsome one way and dark another: and therefore he runs over the several relations of husband, wife, parents, children, masters, and servants, and presseth the same in all these.

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